I have a hard time seeing the worldview when it is not the view from my own default setting. David Foster Wallace urged us to actively seek to break free from this myopic view, and I suspect many of you will wish that I would listen to the late author. But here it is: I just can't get myself all worked into a lather over a loss to UK anymore.
I love the rivalry. I love to win the game. But there is something missing that helps ease my suffering when things don't go the Cardinal's way in that particular game. Maybe it's because I live in the midst of 3 million UNC fans, so that I can go weeks without ever hearing from a UK fan. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to trash talk it, did the tree really fall?
The bigger reason for my growing ennui about this matchup is that in the end it is not as important to me as how the Cards perform when conference play starts. From my perch that is really all that matters. Win the games you are supposed to in November and December, beat UK if you can, but come Big East play it's time to stop messing around and start winning games that can ensure us a good tourney seed. Beating UK...nice. Finishing in the top four of the Big East...necessary.
Driving home last night I was surprised at how much more excited I was about the Seton Hall game then I had been about the UK game on New Years Eve, Maybe it's because I felt confident we'd win, maybe it's because I like mid-week diversions, maybe it's because it gave me an excuse to drink beer in my living room and cheer at the to of my lungs. I don't know. But I do know that a loss to Seton Hall would have pissed me off far beyond what the UK loss did. And beating even a 3rd-tier Big East team made me feel almost as good as beating a top-rated, in-state rival would have.
I don't say this to diminish what the rivalry means to those who drink it up. But as I read the exortations of those who demand satisfaction from Pitino with regards to this rivalry, and those who condemn him for putting more weight on the conference over the historic rival, I want to raise the awareness that not all of us are consumed by this single game. The NCAA tournament is what is important. And if you want to quesiton how well coach has done or whether or not he's living up to expectations, let's measure him by that stick. Not whether he beats the blue. I'm not necessarily saying he universally passes muster in terms of his tourney resume (though I'm happy with his performance) I'm just saying let's use the correct goal as a way to measure the man. I won't bother reciting his Cardinal honorifics because even I, a huge Pitino fan, can admit that I thought he should have had a banner in ten years of coaching. But if he loses to UK every year yet still has us poised for deep tourney runs, so be it.
And for those who do let the rivalry fire burn so hot that they feel the loss all year, all I can say is that you are missing out on enjoying the incredible rivalries we've developed in the Big East. If you gave me a choice between beating Syracuse and UK, I'd take Syracuse every time. Same for Marquette. Same for UConn. Double for WVU.
I want to win every game and UK is one of those. But the season doesn't start with the UK game, the less important part of our season ends with it. Go Cards.